Radical Women: Making Room

Image: Gloria Camiruaga (Chilean, 1941–2006), Popsicles, 1982–84. Video, color, sound, 6 min. Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC), Facultad de Artes, Universidad de Chile.


by: Ionit Behar

“Part of a massive Getty-sponsored initiative focused on Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985 offers an experience both enriching and traumatic. Organized by the Hammer Museum with guest curators Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Andrea Giunta, the exhibition takes as its baseline the systematic exclusion of its 120 artists from the canon of Western art history. This is partly because of widespread sexism in Central and South America, and partly because the global art system is caught in a vicious cycle where the perceived quality of artists is based on visibility and success, often denied to women. Imagining itself as a corrective, Radical Women implores its audience for strong engagement, while overwhelmingly asking visitors to do many things at once.

Radical Women organizes its 250 artworks, many time-based, into dense visual fields. The strategy is purposeful: Fajardo-Hill explains that the show “is designed as a sort of landscape, so when you look at something it is always crossed by something else. It is a complex web of relations, problems, opportunities, and sensibilities of that period.”1 The problem with such a jammed exhibition is that, as in biennials, art fairs, or MFA exhibitions, any individual work is subordinated to an overall exhibitionary effect; this makes it difficult to fully appreciate each piece on its own. Indeed, everything in Radical Women seems to intersect with or touch something else. For example, there are multiple instances of sound bleed, where the audio of one work can be heard while experiencing another one nearby.”


“In academia, Latin American, Chicano, and Latino identities are frequently addressed separately, in so-called “area studies.” Radical Women by contrast endeavors to include Chicana and Latina artists alongside Latin American artists—an approach embraced in other Pacific Standard Time exhibitions. Radical Women thereby focuses on matters of gender as a unifying dimension, above other cultural differences. This often brings consonances into view. Consider for example Ana Victoria Jiménez, an active participant in the Unión Nacional de Mujeres Mexicanas and founder of the largest feminist archive in Mexico, and her Cuaderno de tareas (Assignment Book, 1978–81), a series of photographs recording domestic activities. Focusing on a woman’s hands as she cooks, cleans the bathroom, folds clothes, writes, and sews, the photographs recognize the value of this home labor—a reevaluation that occurs in multiple works across distinct geographies of the presentation. Another work, by the Afro-Peruvian choreographer, composer, and activist Victoria Santa Cruz, indicates certain limits to the exhibition’s inclusivity: namely, Santa Cruz is the only black artist in the show. Radical Women foregrounds her work Me gritaron negra (They Shouted Black at Me, 1978), video documentation of a musical performance in which the artist narrates her experience the only black girl in her neighborhood, left out of games because of her skin color, and her later embrace of black identity as a source of pride.”


See the full review here.


This review is from 11.25.17 when Radical Women was held at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. It travelled to the Brooklyn Museum in New York (April 13–July 22, 2018), and is currently at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo in Brazil (August–November 2018).

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